Patti Smith came up with the title Collapse Into Now for R.E.M.’s 15th album, and that’s exactly what happened—the band merged choice instrumental elements from their past with lyrics about today. Everything die-hard fans love is on this disc, including Peter Buck and the mandolin, a couple of shiny-happy-type tunes, guitar-driven rockers, and a power ballad or two. It sounds like a greatest hits compilation, except it’s not, though there are definitely songs that could earn a place on a future “best of” recording.
Michael Stipe’s lyrics usually determine the direction of any R.E.M. project, and on Collapse, he’s in a good place, evidenced by lines like “This is my time and I am thrilled to be alive.” Choice tracks include ballads “Uberlin” and “Oh My Heart,” balanced by muscular guitar on “Discoverer” and “All The Best.” Guest appearances from Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, and Canadian electronica diva Peaches add to the mix, and there are enough blistering guitar licks to keep Monster lovers happy. Mike Mills’ steady bass and background vocals blend beautifully, as always. And the words? Who other than Stipe could rhyme “Sharon Stone Casino/Scarface Al Pacino/’74 Torino” without blushing?